student activist

Occupy UT, a student activist group, recently released a “Disorientation Field Manual” on their website to inform incoming students about their message.

The manual contains information about student activist groups, problems with the University and information about campus landmarks and activities.

The first disorientation guide was created at UT in 2001. The manual was updated in 2005 and again this summer for incoming freshmen.

“Our goal is to build a unified voice on campus and create student power,” Lucian Villaseñor, a member of Occupy UT, said. “The manual is a tool to bring new students up to speed and to get them interested about organizing on campus.”

If the manual interests them, Villaseñor said new Occupy UT members could learn more through teach-ins on the history of student activism, student organizing workshops and by attending activist potlucks.

“We are spreading the word using what has proven to work in the past: tabling and having one-on-one conversations with students on the ground,” Villaseñor said. “We pass out a quarter-page flier with a blurb about Occupy UT and a link to the ‘Disorientation Manual.’ We chat and answer questions freshman have as well as collect their contact info. The challenge will be to find ways to make them part of the organizing when we come back in the fall.”

According to the manual, students who want to engage in democratic activity are welcome to join Occupy UT.

“UT administrators run the school largely absent of meaningful democratic input from students, faculty, and staff. If you want to make a difference in politics and society while in college, you’ve come to the right place,” the manual said.

The manual also contains a history of activism on UT and the University’s alleged response to student activism during the 1970’s.

“Through architectural remodeling of the campus, the University has sidestepped issues about the right to assemble by taking away the ability to assemble,” the manual reads. “One example occurred in 1974 when the West Mall experienced its shaw of crowd-control tactics. It was transformed from an open grassy field to a concrete space full of planter boxes and an imposing fountain.”

Occupy UT has been working with many student activist organizations, such as Palestinian Solidarity Committee, United Students Against Sweatshops, University Leadership Initiative and the International Socialist Organization.

“We have to build a united front and work together if we want to make any long-term changes on campus,” Villaseñor said.

A controversial flier depicting President William Powers Jr., and College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl as members of the Ku Klux Klan created a rift within student activist group The Students Speak. Several members of the organization created the flier last week without consent of the group in response to proposed cuts to the specialized ethnic and identity studies centers. There will be no administrative representation Tuesday at The Students Speak open forum to discuss the cuts because of insufficient notice and the flier passed out at last week’s question-and-answer session, the liberal arts deans said. Caitlin Eaves, a group member and religious studies senior, said the flier made her feel uncomfortable because it was inaccurate and did not represent the majority opinion. “For one, institutional racism and KKK terrorizing aren’t synonymous struggles, but the biggest problem was that there wasn’t consensus about the flier,” she said. Eaves said the group’s diversity of ideas are much needed and appreciated, but members must be able to understand each other and their beliefs. “We need the organizers who will create a mission statement, but we also need the sit-ins and the walk-outs,” she said. “Most importantly, we need mutual respect for each other within our movement.” The group’s Facebook page, intended to be a public channel of conversation for members and interested students, was the medium for a series of heated exchanges between group members. The flier was one of many issues concerning activism the group disagreed on, including means of protest and communication. Tatiana Young, a women’s and gender studies graduate student and member of the organization, said the Facebook disagreement was a teachable moment that everyone in the organization could learn from. “It has made us sit down and hammer out some organizational stuff and to be mindful of the challenges of organizing,” Young said. “We’ve restructured TSS to work more as a community assembly and to work on a modified consensus.” Young said although the flier was divisive, she does not believe that is the sole reason the liberal arts deans are refusing to attend the forum. Young said even if there was no flier, she doesn’t think Associate Dean Richard Flores would have attended. Leticia Silva, a Latin American studies senior and member of the organization, said she did not feel the cartoon was as controversial as it was made out to be because it was intended to make students think. “It’s a political cartoon, it’s supposed to be thought-provoking,” Silva said. “Maybe they don’t go out in the streets wearing white hoods, but they are still affecting people of color in a real way.” Although College of Liberal Arts administrators will not be present at the forum Tuesday, Diehl said he is committed to having student input as he considers the budget cut proposal. “As I make my decisions about the college budget, I will continue to meet with registered student organizations and leaders who have demonstrated a willingness to have a serious and respectful discussion,” Diehl said. “They are an important part of this consultative process.” Diehl did not mention the flier, and Powers could not be reached for comment.